Wednesday, December 13, 2017

2017: Favorite Wine-Related Items

What were some of my favorite wine related items of the past year?

Let me continue the lists of my best recommendations and favorites of 2017. I have already posted my Top Ten Wines Under $15Top Ten Wines Over $15 and Top Wines Over $50 lists. This post will now concentrate on some of my Favorite Wine-Related Items, which are not specific wine recommendations. This is certainly not a complete list but it is more a sampling of compelling and memorable matters I have experienced and posted about over the past year.

This is also a purely subjective list, based on my own preferences, and makes no claims about being the "best" of anything. But all of the items here have earned my strong recommendations and I hope you will enjoy them as well. For more wine related items, you can just search my blog posts for the past year.

Analysis Of Top Ten Wines: In my three prior Top Wine lists of 2017, I mentioned a total of 36 wines, which included wines from 13 different countries, three more than last year. Tied at the top were Georgia and Portugal, each with 6 wines (and I'll note Spain was in first place last year). Alsace came in second place with 5 wines and Spain, California and Greece ended up tied in third place, each with 3 wines. Moldova and Israel each hold 2 spots while France, Italy, Chile, South Africa, Germany, and Great Britain each hold 1 spot. As for wine types, the list is also broken down into 5 Sparkling, 9 Whites, 2 Rosé, 18 Reds, 1 Fortified and 1 Dessert Wine. Sixteen of the wines were first tasted at the Boston Wine Expo, where I often find a significant number of intriguing wines.

Favorite Discount Wine Stores: Consumers always want bargains, excellent value wines which won't stretch their wallets. You can buy the cheap, mass-produced commercial wines which can be found in almost any wine store or instead, you can seek out excellent, value wines which put to shame those cheap wines. Certain discount wine stores provide not only excellent prices but also an interesting selection and good service. I want to highlight three such stores which continue to do an especially good job, places where I go to seek bargains: Bin Ends in Braintree & Needham, Wine Connextion in North Andover, and Rapid Liquors in Stoneham. Shop at any of those stores and you won't be disappointed.

Favorite Wine Stores: This is a small list of wine stores which consistently impress me with their selection and service. Each shop is worthy of your patronage and wine lovers should make the effort to visit these places if you have not done so yet.
Lower Falls Wine Company in Newton Lower Falls
Wine-Sense in Andover
Wine Bottega in Boston's North End
Central Bottle Wine & Provisions in Cambridge
Wine Press in Brookline
Streetcar Wines in Jamaica Plain

Favorite Wine Breakfast: As a rather novel wine tasting, representatives of Chapel Down, an English winery, held a tasting of a couple of their Sparkling Wines at a breakfast at Bar Boulud. Smoked Salmon & Eggs atop English muffins with delicious bubbly. In my post, The British Are Coming! Chapel Down Sparkling Wine, I wrote about my experience, impressed with the first two English Sparkling wines I've ever tasted. The English climate is similar to that of the Champagne region during the 1960s-1980s. And their chalky soils are similar as well, so it isn't a stretch to understand why English Sparkling wines have become such a hot item.

Favorite Wine Dinner: A deconstructed Flammekeuche with some killer Alsatian wines, surely a combination for success. At Bistro du Midi, I dined with Jean-Frédéric Hugel, of the famed Alsatian winery Hugel et Fils, discussing Wines Without Make-UpAlsatian wine pairs so well with various foods and you should always have some in your cellar. Besides the delicious food and wines, there was plenty of interesting conversation, especially concerning the philosophy that wine is made in the vineyard, not the cellar. And two of the wines from this dinner ended up in my Top Wine lists.

Runner-Up Favorite Wine Dinner: This category was a tie, between a Moldovan wine dinner and a Portuguese wine dinner. The Moldovan wine dinner at Moldova Restaurant, in Newton, exposed me to Moldovan cuisine for the first time, accompanied by numerous tasty Moldovan wines, including two which ended up on my Top Wine lists. I strongly recommend you dine here to experience a taste of Moldova. The Portuguese wine dinner at Terra Nostra, in Fall River, was such a fun evening as I was hosted by the good people of LGL Imports, a distributor of Portuguese wines. The food was excellent, including some intriguing Portuguese dishes including Grilled Limpets and Cow's Leg Stew. The wines were compelling as well, which wasn't a surprise, and I would definitely dine here again the next time I was in Fall River.

Favorite Regional Wine Tasting: At the 2017 Boston Expo, the Wines of Georgia had a major presence, with approximately 18 producers showcasing their wines. I ended up tasting about sixty of their wines, a broad swath through their intriguing and delicious offerings. You can read about my experiences in multiple articles, including Boston Wine Expo: Giorgi Samanisvili & Wines of Georgia, Boston Wine Expo: Wines of Georgia (Part 1)Boston Wine Expo: Wines of Georgia (Part 2), and Boston Wine Expo: Wines of Georgia (Part 3). A number of wines from this tasting also ended up on this year's Top Wine lists. With 8000 years of history, Georgian wine has much to offer, and you can read numerous reasons to taste their wine in another of my articles, Drink More Georgian Wine! 

Favorite Wine Seminar: Also at the 2017 Boston Wine Expo, I attended one of their wine seminars,  Quinta Vale D. Maria, Port & The Douro, which was informative, fun and absolutely delicious. This Portuguese winery has an interesting history and the owner, Cristiano Van Zeller, was an excellent speaker, explaining their history and philosophy. The wines we tasted, especially the comparative ones, were fascinating and we even got to taste a wine from 1870! Two wines from this seminar ended up on my Top Wine lists. As was mentioned at this seminar, "Port is the greatest poetry in wine."

Favorite Large-Scale Tasting: This year, this award goes to the 2017 Boston Wine Expo, a huge consumer wine event. I ended up tasting about 175 wines and spirits, and sixteen of those wines ended up on my Top Wine lists. The Expo has its issues, primarily due to the large crowds that attend, but there are ways to maximize your wine exploration and enjoyment, from attending the Seminars to focusing your tasting on certain regions and/or wine styles. Unfortunately, it seems that there won't be a Boston Wine Expo in 2018.

Most Unique Wine Pairings: What wine would you pair with a showerhead? Or an ornate faucet? I had the opportunity to make such pairings, using only Georgian wines. At a Georgian Wine presentation at Lefroy Brooks in New York City, we tasted the attendees through four Georgian wines, pairing each wine with one of the bathroom creations from Lefroy Brooks. It was an unusual pairing combination but lots of fun. The attendees loved the wines and the company enjoyed the presentation so much that they had us do it again for them in Chicago this past October, which was also another big success.

Favorite Sangria: Quincy has become a fascinating culinary destination and one of the new restaurants is 16C, which is owned by Kerri Lynch-Delaney, who is the niece of famed Chef Barbara Lynch. Sitting at the bar, I opted for their Red Sangria, which is made with blood orange, dragonfruit, and raspberry. The different fruits are what intrigued me, and I was very pleased with the Sangria. It was fruity, with a nice depth of flavor, and with only a mild sweetness. I'm picky about Sangria and this is actually one of the best versions I've tasted in quite some time. I could have easily drank a few of these without feeling like I was in a sugar coma.

Favorite Wine Travel Event: This past June, I attended TasteCamp Maryland, exploring the food and drink or Maryland. TasteCamp is always one of my favorite events as a small group of wine writers get together to explore a wine region, though the event has expanded to include additional alcoholic beverages as well. Maryland was a compelling destination, with delicious and interesting wines and spirits, such as those of McClintock Distilling Co. and Tenth Ward Distilling Company. We were based in Frederick, which has some delicious restaurants, though we traveled a bit to various regions within Maryland. I very much look forward to the next TasteCamp, wherever it might be.

Favorite Wine Rant: My weekly Monday Rants cover a wide range of food and drink-related issues and my favorite one dealing with wine this year was Rant: Become A Wine Activist. It touched on an article written by Peter Weltman, which states "Wine transcends borders and bridges cultures, and it can be used to improve lives if we make the right purchases." Though wine is often seen as a mere luxury, its purchase can possess the power to help people as "Financial support of a country’s wines contributes to the well-being of regions, countries, and producers." I like how this article helps to elevate the status of wine, and how it can benefit people from all over the world. It is definitely an idea we all should embrace when engaged in wine buying.

What were some of your favorite wine-related items this year?

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